A Family Resemblance
Cathy Harris – PFM – John 1:18, John 14:1-14 – May 17, 2020
Welcome to our online worship service here at Plainfield Friends Meeting on May 17!
Our Ministry & Counsel Committee met earlier this week to begin making plans for us to begin worshiping together in person, and to put some things in place for us to meet safely together.
We tentatively plan to start worshiping together in person on Sunday, June 7, and will keep an eye on how things are progressing with the Coronavirus and what recommendations are being made when we get closer to time – but we are hoping to reopen that Sunday.
Worship will look a little different initially – until we get through the pandemic – and we are in the process of putting together information – look for it soon.
John 14:1-14 (NIV)
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
From the time I was in high school, people would tell me I look like my mother, and occasionally – when my mother and I were together – someone would ask us if we were sisters. I never knew if that meant I looked older or if she looked younger – it was always a good thing for my Mom.
And when I got out of college and started working at Eli Lilly & Co. – on my first day there – two different men asked me if I was Barbara’s daughter. Roger had gone to the same church as my parents, and Ed had gone to school with my parents. Both men – separately – said that was the first day they had felt old – to know that a classmate’s child could be old enough to be their coworkers!
There must be a strong enough family resemblance for them to have seen my mother and recognize her in me.
Have people told you that you look like your mom, or your dad, or your grandparent? Family resemblances can be strong. We can physically resemble other family members, but it’s more than that. Sometimes we share different habits or mannerisms as well.
Once in a while – when I smile or have a certain expression on my face, my Mom will tell me I look like her cousin, Melinda. OR when Tom laughs, he reminds me of his brother, John, or their dad – they all tilted their heads back a little and held their mouths the same way when they laughed.
Without even thinking about it, we sometimes talk like our parents, behave like our parents, or smile or laugh like our parents or some other relative.
I started thinking about family resemblances over the past couple of weeks, because we were with some extended family members and other people recently who commented that there was a family resemblance between Tom and his brothers, and one person (who hadn’t seen Megan for several years) told Megan she looked like Tom, and I was surprised to hear Megan say she thought she looked like him, too.
And – I think Jesus was speaking about the same reality in today’s scripture reading in the Gospel of John.
This is a very poignant moment in the Gospel of John. It all took place at the Last Supper, on the night before Jesus died. Jesus was preparing his disciples for his death – that he wouldn’t be with them anymore. This prompts anxious questions from the disciples – “What is to become of us?”
At this point, all of their power has come from their proximity to Jesus – from being near him/with him. Now that Jesus was going away, what about them?!”
Philip – one of Jesus’ disciples – asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus replied: “If you’ve seen me, then you have seen the Father.”
In other words – If you know me, you already know God. What Jesus was really saying to Philip and the other disciples was this:
Look at me: if you see me, you see what God looks like.
Listen to me: if you hear me speak, you are hearing God’s voice.
Watch me: If you see the way I live and act, that is revealing of how God lives and acts.
Jesus was telling them that he LOOKED like his Father, he sounded like his Father, and he acted like his Father – there was a family resemblance! It’s amazing, really – that in the person of Jesus, we are catching a glimpse of God, and hearing God, and experiencing God.
At the beginning of the Gospel of John (John 1:18), John tells us that no one has ever seen God.
And here – when Philip reminded Jesus that he had never seen God – Jesus says, Oh! But you have! – in me you have seen, heard, and experienced God.
The invisible God becomes visible in the person of his Son, Jesus. The family resemblance is so strong. If you’ve seen the Son, you’ve seen the Father. Sometimes we struggle –because we know that God is a spiritual reality – and we can’t literally see God – and sometimes that’s very difficult. God is beyond our comprehension. God is invisible to our physical eyes. And that fact can, at times, make God seem distant, disconnected, hard to know.
If we want to know who God is, we need look no farther than Jesus. All the words that Jesus has spoken, all the works that he has done, come from God and show us who God is.
That is why we need to pay so much attention to Jesus in the Gospels. Do you want to know what your heavenly Father looks like? He looks like his son. His son… humble enough to be born in a barn… gentle enough to embrace the children… compassionate enough to hold hands with the sick… that’s what God looks like. He looks like his Son.
Do you want to know what God sounds like? He sounds like his Son. His Son, who says… Blessed are the peacemakers… His son who says … forgive 70 times seven… or – your sins are forgiven… or – when I was hungry you fed me…. That’s what God sounds like. He sounds like his Son.
Do you want to know how God acts? He acts like his Son. His Son, who feeds the multitudes, who calms the storms, who heals the sick, who speaks the truth. That’s how God acts. Like his Son.
And we are created in his image and likeness. Have you ever thought much about that phrase from Genesis 1? We are created in “the image and likeness of God.”
When people see me – and you, they should see Jesus and his father – God.
When people hear us, they should hear the words of Jesus – which are also God’s words.
When people encounter us, they should find us doing the deeds of Jesus – which are also the things that God does. But then there’s more!
Jesus prepares his followers by empowering them, reassuring them that they will do even greater things than Jesus has done.
Really, Jesus? Greater works than healing the blind and raising the dead? And you will do whatever we ask in your name? How can this be? Perhaps our problem is that in hearing these promises, we expect to do these greater works in the same way that Jesus did them – with miraculous power that instantly solves the problem at hand.
And yet – Jesus boldly predicts that those disciples – filled with dread and anxiety – will, because of their relationship with Jesus – do greater things than Jesus did himself.
When you think of our Meeting – our church – you might think of warmth, friendliness, and joy – I feel that way when I think of our Meeting – but do you also feel power?
During these days of pandemic, during these days when our lives have been radically changed, it is especially easy to feel powerless and to have little control over our lives. I imagine that there are many people around the world – perhaps including ourselves – wondering: where do we find God, where do we see God, in the middle of this mess? And yet, Jesus promised, “Those of you who believe in me will do even greater work than I have done.”
Do you believe that? That you and me – that our little church – for our size, for all of our faults (and we are human, and if you’ve been around me, you’ll know I have faults – we all do) – is that we are empowered to do greater works than the works done by Jesus.
How did John’s Gospel – all of the Gospels for that matter – begin? They begin by Jesus calling ordinary people to be his disciples and to follow him. That’s the way Jesus works.
Take, for example, the Gospel of John – someone eloquently wrote about Jesus’ life, his sermons, the many things he said and did – and we would never have known about it – if someone had not written them all down.
Sure, it takes a great deal of faith to believe that Jesus is who he says he is – that Jesus and God are one – and that when we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen God. But it also takes some faith to believe what Jesus says about us – that God is doing greater works through people like us.
So – if you want to see what God is up to right now, pay attention to what God’s people are up to right now.
Right now, Christians are feeding the hungry, supporting those who have lost their jobs, helping those who have hit an economic hardship.
People are checking in on their elderly neighbors, calling up folks they know who are lonely or writing a card letting people know they are thinking of them, picking up groceries for a loved one or a neighbor, or feeding school children lunches.
Jesus promises to be with us through the power of the Spirit, to work in and through us to accomplish his purposes in the world. This does not necessarily happen in easily visible, spectacular ways. Yet wherever there is healing, reconciling, life-giving work happening, this is the work of God. Wherever there is life in abundance, this is Jesus’ presence in our midst.
Most mornings – either as I leave my house and walk over to the Meeting house to work in my office – or as I sit down at my desk, I silently pray – “Lord, may every person I speak with today, may every person I email today, may every person I encounter today, see Jesus in me.” I don’t always get it right – but it is my prayer.
May we live our lives in such a way that the people who encounter us might someday say, “Gosh, they looked and acted and lived like Jesus.” Amen.